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How to Write a Research Paper

Writing a research paper is a bit more difficult that a standard high school essay. You need to site sources, use academic data and show scientific examples. Before beginning, you’ll need guidelines for how to write a research paper.

Start the Research Process

Before you begin writing the research paper, you must do your research. It is important that you understand the subject matter, formulate the ideas of your paper, create your thesis statement and learn how to speak about your given topic in an authoritative manner. You’ll be looking through online databases, encyclopedias, almanacs, periodicals, books, newspapers, government publications, reports, guides and scholarly resources. Take notes as you discover new information about your given topic. Also keep track of the references you use so you can build your bibliography later and cite your resources.

Develop Your Thesis Statement

When organizing your research paper, the thesis statement is where you explain to your readers what they can expect, present your claims, answer any questions that you were asked or explain your interpretation of the subject matter you’re researching. Therefore, the thesis statement must be strong and easy to understand. Your thesis statement must also be precise. It should answer the question you were assigned, and there should be an opportunity for your position to be opposed or disputed. The body of your manuscript should support your thesis, and it should be more than a generic fact.

Create an Outline

Many professors require outlines during the research paper writing process. You’ll find that they want outlines set up with a title page, abstract, introduction, research paper body and reference section. The title page is typically made up of the student’s name, the name of the college, the name of the class and the date of the paper. The abstract is a summary of the paper. An introduction typically consists of one or two pages and comments on the subject matter of the research paper. In the body of the research paper, you’ll be breaking it down into materials and methods, results and discussions. Your references are in your bibliography. Use a research paper example to help you with your outline if necessary.

Organize Your Notes

When writing your first draft, you’re going to have to work on organizing your notes first. During this process, you’ll be deciding which references you’ll be putting in your bibliography and which will work best as in-text citations. You’ll be working on this more as you develop your working drafts and look at more white paper examples to help guide you through the process.

Write Your Final Draft

After you’ve written a first and second draft and received corrections from your professor, it’s time to write your final copy. By now, you should have seen an example of a research paper layout and know how to put your paper together. You’ll have your title page, abstract, introduction, thesis statement, in-text citations, footnotes and bibliography complete. Be sure to check with your professor to ensure if you’re writing in APA style, or if you’re using another style guide.


research paper on organized crime

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What Are Some Examples of Action Research Papers?

An action research paper documents a “cycle of inquiry,” in which the writer evaluates a problem and develops a strategy of reform. Educators and educational administrators typically use this writing format to foster continual improvement in teaching or organizational methods. Action research papers include several predefined steps, including problem identification, data collection, interpretation of varying theories, proposed resolution and implementation plans. Rather than analyzing problems objectively, the goal is for writers to assess their own roles in promoting progress.

Action research papers provide a valuable inquiry process for settings in which a group of professionals need ongoing reform to deliver the best results. The topic may involve fixing an existing problem, such as student absenteeism, or learning about a subject that seems promising, such as blending learning models. As action research papers are informal and intended for an organizational audience, the format varies while incorporating staple elements. The paper may be written in first person and include an abstract.

Based on thorough investigative research, the opening sections of an action paper evaluate existing theories and values from other experts alongside the writers’ proposed beliefs. Another important element is the problem statement, which identifies the focus, research questions and challenges the writer faces in developing an effective strategy. The body of the paper addresses the writer’s methods of data collection and analysis of their impact. Data collection usually involves actionable fieldwork, enabling researchers to tailor their analyses to their own environments. Toward the conclusion, the paper reports findings and presents a plan to take action to implement a proven, repeatable method.


research paper on organized crime

Organized Crime Research Paper

research paper on organized crime

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As with several terms in criminology, organized crime has been defined in a variety of ways and there is surprisingly little consensus regarding its meaning. In part this is because, unlike in the case of homicide or robbery or many other types of offenses, organized crime is a conceptual rather than a legal category. The issue of definition is an important one, however, since how we define organized crime has very important implications for how we attempt to explain it and for the steps we take as a society to prevent or control it.

Of course, all crime is organized to some degree. The criminal acts of juvenile delinquents, a small group of minor thieves, or a three-person team of con artists suggest at least minimal levels of social organization. Yet we do not usually intend the term ‘‘organized crime’’ to include such activities or groups. All crimes and criminals are located along a continuum of organizational sophistication that identifies differences with respect to factors such as the division of labor or stability over time. The importation, preparation, distribution, and sale of illegal drugs is a more organized crime than is a simple mugging; and a group of criminals who steal cars, modify them, and then ship them for sale outside of the United States requires more organization than a group of juveniles who commit the occasional act of convenience store theft. By implication, if not more explicitly, the term ‘‘organized crime’’ refers to groups and acts at the high rather than the low end of any continuum of organizational sophistication.

Unfortunately, the tendency to use the term ‘‘organized crime’’ to refer simultaneously to a type of behavior and a type of person often leads to circular reasoning. For instance, the phrase ‘‘‘organized crime’ is involved in narcotics distribution in New York’’ is tautological because narcotics distribution is an organized crime and whoever is involved in it is by definition in organized crime. Most typically, organized crime is defined in ways that emphasize high levels of cooperation among groups of professional criminals. In this way, the category organized crime is viewed as synonymous with the category organized criminals. In popular parlance, for instance, organized crime has been equated with ‘‘the mob,’’ ‘‘the Mafia’’ or ‘‘The Syndicate.’’

Critics of definitions that tend to equate organized crime with criminal associations are quite correct in pointing out that such definitions discourage our potential understanding of the wide variety of other social actors involved in organized crime. Thus, they contend, there is more to organized crime than associations of professional criminals. There are victims, customers, regulators, suppliers, competitors, and innocent bystanders. Viewed this way, the criminal association is merely one component in a much more complex web of interrelationships that comprise organized crime. Moreover, the configurations among these various elements are always changing and these changes affect the ways in which any particular component (including the criminal association) is organized.

For these writers, organized crime is more usefully conceptualized as a set of market relationships rather than as criminal associations or secret societies. This position reflects the view that many of the kinds of activities with which we customarily associate organized crime—drug dealing, loan-sharking, gambling, the infiltration of legitimate business—are market activities and, therefore, the kinds of questions we need to ask about organized crime are the same kinds of questions we would need to ask about any kind of business. How are goods marketed? How are contractual obligations enforced? What sorts of relationships link criminal entrepreneurs to the general public as well as to those who seek to use state power to regulate their activities? Thus, organized crime involves an ongoing criminal conspiracy, ordered around market relationships that involve victims, offenders, customers, and corrupt officials among others.

To a considerable degree, criminological debates about how to best define organized crime (like debates about its history, structure, and most other matters) are fueled by the problems that plague efforts to undertake original research into organized crime. Many of the standard methodological tools of social science—the survey or the experiment, for instance—that are employed with effectiveness in addressing the nature of other forms of offending, lack real application in the study of organized crime. As a result, much of what we know, we have learned indirectly. Popular journalism, the findings of government investigations, and criminal and civil investigations have often substituted for firsthand observation by criminological researchers. For many critics, the lack of original research and the reliance on these other data sources make it difficult to separate fact from fiction. Moreover, when original research has been undertaken, such as the study by Francis Ianni and Elizabeth Reuss-Ianni of a New York Italian American crime family, it has often proven to be sharply critical of the official view of organized crime. Such studies have tended to reveal a considerably more complex picture than the one that often emerges in the pages of the ‘‘true crime’’ or fictional narrative or from the proceedings of government inquiries.

History of Organized Crime

The pirates who plundered and looted merchant vessels in the seventeenth century and who undertook large-scale trade in stolen goods may be considered among the earliest organized crime groups to make their appearance in the Western world. Many of the activities that are associated with contemporary organized crime, such as prostitution, gambling, theft, and various forms of extortion, were also evident in the frontier communities of the nineteenth-century American West.

However, most observers locate the origins of the distinctly American style of organized crime in the urban centers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In a fundamental way, urban conditions provided the kind of environment in which organized crime could flourish. The large population sizes provided a ‘‘critical mass’’ of offenders, customers, and victims and thereby facilitated the development of profitable markets in illicit goods and services. Moreover, the size and density of urban networks allowed criminal forms of organization to become diversified and encouraged the growth of essential support services (such as those offered by corrupt politicians or police).

These early forms of criminal organization were typically tied to local areas and because of the highly segregated character of the city, they had important ethnic dimensions. Irish neighborhoods, for instance, gave rise to street gangs with names like ‘‘The Bowery Boys’’ and the ‘‘O’Connell’s Guards’’ and in Chinese, African American, Italian, and Jewish neighborhoods criminal organization similarly reflected local cultural and economic circumstances. Neighborhood conditions provided ample opportunity for local criminal entrepreneurs who were willing and able to engage in a various forms of extortion or illicit marketeering.

During the first two decades of the twentieth century, residents of the ‘‘Little Italies’’ of many eastern industrialized urban areas had to contend with a crude form of protection racket known as ‘‘La Mano Nera’’ or ‘‘the Black Hand.’’ Those members of the local community who were better off financially might receive an anonymous note demanding that a sum of money be paid to the writer. If payment was not forthcoming, victims were typically warned that they could expect to have their businesses bombed or the safety of their family members jeopardized. Customarily, the extortion demand was signed with a crude drawing of a black hand. While the receiver of the letter (as well as other members of the community) were led to believe that the Black Hand was a large and powerful organization, it is more likely that the extortion was the work of individuals or a small group of offenders who used their victims’ fear of secret societies (and often their fear of the police) to coerce payment.

While most forms of criminal organization prior to World War I were relatively small-scale operations, the situation changed dramatically with the introduction of Prohibition. The Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified on 16 January 1919 and went into effect one year later. The intention of the national experiment was to control alcohol use through the prevention of the manufacture, sale, and transportation of intoxicating liquors. In essence, national prohibition had created an illegal market unlike any that had existed before.

It can be argued that national prohibition facilitated the consolidation of the power of criminal organizations. Although pre-Prohibition criminal enterprises had often been profitable, the revenue potential of Prohibition was unprecedented. While precise estimates of the amount of money that flowed through organized crime groups are difficult to make, it is clear that the manufacture and sale of illegal alcohol had become a major industry. In 1927, for instance, the U.S. Attorney’s Office estimated that the criminal organization of the notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone had an annual income of $105 million. In subsequent years, the profits from the sale of illegal alcohol in Chicago and other cities funded the movement of criminal organizations into diverse sectors of both the licit and the illicit economies.

The importation and distribution of illegal alcohol also encouraged national and international linkages between criminal groups. For instance, the involvement of Canadian organized crime figures in smuggling operations that moved alcohol to the United States facilitated the eventual control by American organized crime groups of Canadian criminal operations in cities such as Toronto and Montreal. On a national level, intergroup cooperation was evidenced by regional conferences of those involved in the illicit liquor business. One such major gathering of crime figures was held in Atlantic City in 1929 and was attended by representatives from criminal organizations located in several major urban areas.

Importantly, the profitability of those industries that subverted national prohibition fostered an environment of widespread corruption in several cities. For many members of the general public as well as many law enforcement and elected officials, prohibition lacked any real moral authority. The relationships between criminal organizations and the political machines that held sway in many cities were stabilized during Prohibition, and the intricate connections between these sectors of the urban social fabric were maintained for decades to come.

The Great Depression of the 1930s did not affect the business of organized crime to the degree it affected many aspects of the legitimate economy. After Prohibition ended in 1933, major criminal organizations diversified and became increasingly powerful in the process. Gambling, loan-sharking, and the growth industry of narcotics distribution became important sources of criminal revenue as repeal threatened the proceeds from the illegal sale of alcohol.

An increasingly significant area of enterprise during this period was ‘‘racketeering.’’ While the term may be defined many different ways, it generally refers to the variety of means by which organized crime groups, through the use of violence (actual or implied), gain control of labor unions or legitimate businesses. Often, though, the relationships that joined organized crime groups to unions or legitimate business were mutually advantageous. The leadership of a labor union, for example, might seek to exploit the violent reputation of those involved in organized crime in order to pressure an employer to meet a demand for concessions. Similarly, a business owner might attempt to control the competitive character of the legitimate marketplace or to avert labor troubles through affiliation with those willing to use violence and intimidation in the pursuit of economic goals. The International Longshoremen’s Association and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters are among the best known examples of labor organizations affected by racketeering.

In 1950, organized crime became a highly visible part of American popular culture. A series of televised congressional hearings chaired by Senator Estes Kefauver sought not only the testimony of law enforcement experts but also of supposed members of organized crime networks. In general, the latter type of witness tended to remain silent or to otherwise express an unwillingness to provide evidence. These refusals made for startling television viewing and were interpreted by many observers as unambiguous proof of the sinister character of the problem of organized crime.

In its final report the Kefauver committee concluded that organized crime in America was largely under the control of an alien conspiracy known as ‘‘the Mafia.’’ The Kefauver committee argued that the organization, which was said to have its origins in Sicily, was firmly in control of gambling, narcotics, political corruption, and labor racketeering in America. The Mafia, it was suggested, cemented its power through the use of violence, intimidation, and corruption.

The influence of the Kefauver committee in shaping postwar perceptions of organized crime as the product of an alien conspiracy, which subverts American social structure rather than emerging from it, cannot be underestimated. Its findings influenced significantly the ways in which policymakers, journalists, academics, and members of the general public would think about the problem of organized crime for decades to come. However, critics have charged that the committee was more engaged by the process of public drama than by a search for the truth. In this respect, it can be argued that the committee had very little proof upon which to base the startling conclusions that it reached about the nationwide conspiracy of ethnic criminals.

A number of developments in subsequent decades nevertheless appeared to be consistent with the findings of the Kefauver committee. In 1957, an apparent conclave of Mafia members was raided in the small upstate town of Apalachin, New York. In 1963, another congressional investigation of organized crime (known popularly as the McClellan committee) heard testimony from a supposed Mafia insider, named Joseph Valachi. According to Valachi, the control of organized crime in America rested with an organization known as ‘‘La Cosa Nostra’’ rather than the Mafia. Valachi described the character of the organization, the oaths that its members took, and recounted the historical process by which the modern La Cosa Nostra was formed after a purge of the older and more traditional Mafia leadership of the 1930s. Once again, critics pointed out that very little of what Valachi had to say could be corroborated independently and that he himself had a record of lying to law enforcement authorities when it suited his purpose. Still, Valachi’s testimony helped strengthen a kind of ideological and moral consensus around the view of organized crime as an alien parasitic conspiracy rather than as a problem indigenous to American social life. Moreover, his testimony and the work of the McClellan committee more generally legitimated the subsequent development of investigative approaches to organized crime, including the widespread use of wiretaps, witness immunity, and other strategies facilitated by the passage of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970.

In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson appointed the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice to examine all aspects of crime and justice in America. One of the task forces associated with this commission was charged with the responsibility of investigating the nature and dimensions of organized crime. The report of that task force, shaped principally by the well-known criminologist Donald Cressey, reinforced and extended the view of organized crime as an alien ethnic conspiracy. According to the task force, La Cosa Nostra was comprised of approximately five thousand members organized within twentyfour ‘‘families’’ each of which was associated with a particular regional sphere of influence. Moreover, these families were said to be organized in terms of a rigid hierarchical chain of command. The highest level of decision-making in the organization was a ‘‘National Commission’’ that served as a combination legislature, supreme court, and board of directors.

While a number of critics dissented, there was a widespread consensus by the 1970s that organized crime did indeed reflect an Italian American hegemony. The apparent findings of investigative commissions and task forces were underwritten by films such as The Godfather, The Valachi Papers, and Mean Streets as well as by other elements of popular culture. At the same time, it was increasingly acknowledged that other groups were beginning to make significant inroads in organized crime. Typically described in terms of their ethnicity, such groups were said to include African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Russians. The powerful character of earlier organized crime imagery affected the ways in which such groups were labeled by the mass media and by relevant policy communities and it became common to speak of the growing power of the black, Mexican, or Russian ‘‘Mafias.’’

By the 1980s many observers had come to the conclusion that whatever control La Cosa Nostra exerted over organized crime was in decline. The systems of widespread corruption that had emerged out of Prohibition typically involved well-articulated relationships between organized crime groups on the one hand and established political machines on the other. These machines, which facilitated the centralization of police and urban political corruption, had largely disappeared by the 1970s. Moreover, because municipal policing had become more professionalized and because federal agencies had begun to develop an increasing interest in the activities of organized crime, the bases of largescale, long-term corruption had been undermined.

The passage of new legislation aimed at the control of organized crime and the aggressive prosecution of cases involving Italian organized crime figures also did much to weaken the hold that La Cosa Nostra had on licit and illicit businesses. Perhaps most important in this respect was the passage of the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act and related statutes. The members of Italian American organizations in Philadelphia, Kansas City, Boston, and elsewhere were effectively prosecuted and high-visibility cases were brought against well-known figures such as John Gotti and the heads of the five New York crime families were seen as clear proof of the power of the prosecutorial assault.

It is also worth noting that the decline within urban areas of traditional Italian communities and the movement of second and third generations to the suburbs removed from cities much of the popular support that many organized crime figures had previously enjoyed. In addition, it has been suggested that the continued tendency of the Mafia (or La Cosa Nostra) to recruit new members from a dwindling pool of uneducated and violent felons did little to ensure the adaptability of the organization as the business of organized crime became more complex at the end of the twentieth century. In addition, the gains made by other ethnic groups often came at the expense of the Italian American crime syndicate’s interests. The traditional control of the heroin markets was lost to Mexican and Asian groups whose strategies for importation of the drug did not depend on the muscle that the Mafia may have been able to exert for so long against the New York waterfront. Similarly, the very lucrative cocaine business was under the control of Colombian cartels rather than Cosa Nostra families. The cartels required neither the financing nor the private violence that the Italian syndicate might have been able to lend to the operation of an illicit market. Such groups were themselves well financed and in possession of their own fearsome reputations regarding the use of violence to settle disputes or to threaten competition.

The concern in the 1980s and 1990s about the emergence of new organized groups was accompanied by a concern about the increasingly transnational character of organized crime. This crime trend has been understood, in large part, as an outcome of the post–cold war reconfiguration of national and economic boundaries. The reduction in trade restrictions, the development of global systems of finance and telecommunications, the increasingly transparent nature of national borders, and the dramatic internal changes in many nations (such as those in the former Soviet Union) made it easier for criminal conspirators to expand their operations internationally. Such operations are tracked, investigated, and prosecuted with great difficulty since effective enforcement requires levels of international cooperation among policing agencies from different nations that often vary markedly regarding their enforcement priorities and the resources available to them.

Police intelligence during the period suggested, for instance, that organized crime groups from the former Soviet Union, Asia, and Italy were forming partnerships among themselves as well as with drug merchants in Central and South America. As in the case of legitimate business, such foreign expansions resulted from the desire to engage new markets. The links between Colombian drug cartels and the Sicilian Mafia, for example, reflected an interest on the part of the cartels to enter European markets where, as compared to the United States, cocaine could be sold at a higher price and where drug enforcement activity was less aggressive. Estimates of the economic impact of transnational crime are difficult to make and run as high as several hundred billion dollars annually.

The International Context

Particularly salient aspects of organized crime in the United States are its apparent durability and the degree to which it has permeated popular culture. Over the decades it has evolved in ways that suggest both an endemic social problem and a distinctly American cultural mythology. Such considerations do not imply, however, that the phenomenon of organized crime is in any sense unique to the United States.

Of course, cross-national comparisons of organized crime levels and activities are exceptionally difficult to make, given considerable variation in legal codes, and the quantity and quality of intelligence information. As a result, generalizations about the kinds of national characteristics that do or do not provide the environment in which organized crime will flourish are always tentative. However, several factors do seem to have real relevance in this respect.

One such factor is the gap that exists between the goods and services which citizens demand and the legal codes that attempt to regulate supply. The experience with alcohol prohibition in the United States (as well as with current drug policies) has convinced many that when laws are designed to regulate illicit markets, organized crime is an inevitability. In the former Soviet Union, an extremely large black market thrived as all forms of individual economic enterprise were illegal. It has been argued that the personnel, who comprise the organized crime groups that have come to be seen as an extremely serious problem in the post-Soviet societies of Eastern Europe, developed their entrepreneurial skills in the context of such market economies.

Traditions and political structures conducive to corruption are also very important to the development of organized crime. The role attributed to American urban political machines is not unique in this respect. The historically authoritarian character of Soviet society encouraged the subversion of the legal control of many forms of entrepreneurial activity and fostered widespread disrespect for the law and political authority. It can be suggested that the immense wealth accumulated by drug cartels in Mexico, Colombia, and other countries when combined with political traditions of one-party rule (as in Mexico or Nigeria, for example) and an immense gap between rich and poor, make political and law enforcement corruption, and as a consequence, organized crime, likely outcomes.

The development of organized crime is also related to geographic location. The proximity of Mexico and Canada to the United States, for instance, has affected the growth of organized crime in both countries. For Mexican crime groups, proximity to the United States provides access to a sizeable and relatively easily penetrable drug market. In the Canadian case, the cultural and social similarities to the United States, and a relatively open border, in addition to several other factors, facilitated the movement northward of major organized crime groups in the 1950s and 1960s. In a different way, according to the U.S. State Department, Chile had avoided, until the closing years of the twentieth century, many of the problems with organized crime that are characteristic of other South American countries due largely to its geographic isolation.

While it is clear that organized crime can emerge out of many different sorts of political contexts, perhaps it is most secure in nations with liberal democratic traditions that emphasize upward mobility and individual achievement. In the United States, cultural approval of the upwardly bound is pervasive and an important part of national ideology. It has often been the case that cultural support of the organized criminal has been no less extensive than for those who have made fortunes in more conventional ways. Not only within their own ethnic communities but also within the wider society, organized crime figures such as Al Capone and John Gotti have emerged as folk heroes and media celebrities.

Ethnic Succession and Organized Crime

The role that ethnicity plays in shaping American organized crime has long been at the center of a heated debate among criminologists. Two broad schools of thought may be identified in this regard. The first, which many critics label the ‘‘alien conspiracy theory,’’ assigns primary significance to the role played by Italian American groups in organized crime from the early days of this century until at least the 1980s. From this point of view, large scale American organized crime emerged out of earlier forms of Italian criminal organization such as the ‘‘Black Hand’’ gangs discussed earlier. Such gangs were themselves thought by advocates of this position to have reflected criminal styles and organizational forms imported to America from Sicily and other areas of southern Italy during the largescale immigration of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While small-scale forms of criminal organization may have predated the importation of the Mafia, advocates of this view maintain that the history of organized crime in America really is the history of the American Mafia. It is claimed that internecine struggles among groups of Italian American gangsters in the 1930s (known as the Castellammarese War) led to the Americanization of the Mafia and the emergence of a new and dynamic leadership that is associated with such wellknown organized crime figures of the 1940s and 1950s as Charles ‘‘Lucky’’ Luciano, Frank Costello, and Vito Genovese. As the Americanized ‘‘La Cosa Nostra’’ replaced the more traditional organizational form of the Mafia, Italian American hegemony over organized crime was firmly established for several decades. From this point of view, it is not ethnicity as a variable that matters so much as the distinctive ethnicity of Mafia members. By implication, there is something very unique about the cultural character of southern Italy that has frequently predisposed immigrants from those regions to become involved in organized crime. Not surprisingly, Italian Americans have long complained about the Mafia stereotype and about the suggestion that organized crime is exclusively or largely the domain of those with Italian ancestry.

While the alien conspiracy theory has been legitimated by journalists, government inquiries, and many scholars, its critics argue that it too often substitutes myth for fact. There is, for instance, very little evidence to suggest that Italian American crime was characterized by a unilinear evolution or even that certain of the pivotal events (such as the Castellammarese War) even took place. However, critics charge, the most serious limitation of this argument may be that it tends to treat organized crime as a ‘‘special case.’’ Because it attributes organized crime to a small number of criminal conspirators and to unique secret societies, the perspective asks few questions to which general answers can be given. By conceptualizing organized crime as the product of ‘‘evil’’ groups and by conceptualizing these groups as the product of singular social circumstances and powerful personalities, the argument blocks the way to a more abstract understanding of the problem. Moreover, by viewing organized crime as something that is imported to America, rather than as an indigenous product, the perspective does not seek to explain the relationships that link such crime to elements of American social structure.

A second perspective attempts to provide a historical context for the Italian American experience by arguing that it is part of a much broader process of ‘‘ethnic succession’’ in organized crime. This argument maintains that organized crime is not the exclusive domain of any one ethnic group. Rather, groups move into organized crime when other channels of upward social mobility are not open to them, and move out as more legitimate means of attaining wealth, power, and prestige become available. According to the sociologist Daniel Bell, who originally made this argument in the 1950s, organized crime functions as a ‘‘queer ladder of social mobility.’’

Thus, advocates of the ethnic succession argument maintain that in the burgeoning cities of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, organized crime was dominated by the Irish. As Irish gangs formed, they became connected to urban political machines that were also under Irish control. As the legitimate power structure became increasingly available to Irish Americans, however, they began to view organized crime as less attractive, and as they moved out of such activity, other groups—most notably Jewish and Italian organized criminals—assumed an increasingly important presence. However, because the Italian domination of organized crime coincided with the rise of mass media, and the investigative activities of the Keafauver committee and other government bodies, the one-to-one correspondence between organized crime and Italian ethnicity became fixed in public discourse.

As Italian dominance in organized crime declined in the 1970s and 1980s, the process of ethnic succession continued. African American, Hispanics, Asians, Russians, and others, it is said, have each in turn replaced their predecessors as changes in the legitimate structures of opportunity have accommodated—often grudgingly— groups who previously played significant roles in organized crime.

The ethnic succession argument presents a more complicated picture of the relationships involving organized crime, ethnicity, and American social structure than the one suggested by theories of alien conspiracies. It contends that organized crime is not imported to America but is instead a logical product of the distinctly American character of minority group stratification and of the restrictions on legitimate opportunities that minorities face. Organized crime is not the property of any particular group but rather a means of social mobility that the existence of illicit markets makes available. As such it has been intertwined historically with other semilegitimate channels of upward mobility, such as entertainment, boxing, and union and urban politics. Like organized crime, these channels of upward mobility do not depend on credentials or family status and, as a result, have also been characterized by processes of ethnic succession.

Analytically, the ethnic succession argument encourages a focus on the variable character of ethnic group experiences in organized crime. Not all groups have been involved in such crime and those that have been involved have tended, often, to specialize in particular forms of illicit activity. By recognizing the differing experiences that groups have with organized crime, it is possible to develop a more general understanding of how ethnicity and historical circumstance interact. Some groups, such as the Germans and Scandinavians, were more likely to settle in rural areas of the Midwest rather than in urban areas of the east, and as a result their involvement in organized crime was less typical. In a consistent way, the cultural backgrounds of other groups have influenced the kinds of illegal activities in which they did become involved. Early in the twentieth century, for instance, the Irish specialized in gambling and labor racketeering. The latter choice reflected their more general involvement in the leadership of the labor movement. It has also been argued that the large-scale involvement of Italian organized criminals in the illegal alcohol business during prohibition represented an attempt to enter an illicit market that was new and thus not under Irish control. Much later in the twentieth century, Vietnamese and Chinese organized crime groups have specialized in extortion and the importation of drugs, while Russian groups have specialized in various forms of fraud, forgery, and counterfeiting.

Aspects of organized crime other than market specialization may also be related to ethnicity. Cultural experience, for instance, may relate to the level of mistrust of government, the degree of community tolerance for particular types of organized crime activities, the willingness to use violence, and to the forms that criminal organizations assume.

Some critics have charged that the theory of ethnic succession is too simplistic. In short, it is suggested that the image of ethnic groups as, in some sense, lined up and waiting their turn to enter organized crime and then neatly exiting when legitimate opportunities present themselves is not consistent with the historical record. There are several strands to this criticism. First, there is historical evidence to support the conclusion that in many cities—including, for example, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and Cleveland— organized crime has not been under the control of any particular ethnic group but has been run instead by multiethnic hierarchies.

Second, it may be erroneous to assume that organized crime is a channel of upward mobility readily available to those who are at the bottom of the social hierarchy and who lack access to more conventional channels. Rather, the process has been more complicated such that success in large-scale organized crime appears to be possible only after at least some gains have been made in the conventional order. As stated, the success of the Irish in organized crime early in the century depended on their collaborative relationships with the police, labor unions, and political machines. Thus, prior success in more conformist spheres seems to make success at organized crime possible.

Third, the ethnic succession argument appears to assume that organized crime is a zerosum game such that movement into this activity is only possible when other groups move out. This need not be the case. If particular markets (for instance, the market in marijuana) do not tend toward monopolization, then clearly groups can move in without pushing anyone else out. Another line of criticism maintains that the major weakness of the argument concerns its failure to explain why, within any ethnic group, some individuals rather than others involve themselves in organized crime. This criticism rightly alerts us to the observation that, with respect to any ethnic group, it is only a very small minority who engage in organized crime. Most ethnic group members remain hardworking, develop legitimate entrepreneurial enterprises, and in general strive to make effective use of those opportunities that do present themselves. According to this view, movement into organized crime is not a response to a reduction in opportunity but a rationally chosen style of life that exploits subterranean American values regarding ‘‘easy money’’ and ‘‘the fast life.’’ The General Theory of Crime, developed by Michael Gottfredson and Travis Hirschi, suggests that those who engage in organized crime, like those who engage in other forms of crime, do so because they lack high levels of ‘‘self control’’ rather than because they experience the frustration borne of blocked opportunity. A corresponding point can be made regarding the tenet of ethnic succession theory that those who are forced into organized crime move out when legitimate opportunities present themselves. Some observers, such as Peter Lupsha, have noted that movement out often seems more a matter of defeat or attrition than of any effort to gain real respectability. The Italian American organized crime figures who had risen to prominence by the middle of the twentieth century left organized crime principally as a result of death or prosecution. Many of those who remained faced vigorous opponents who sought a share of the businesses that they controlled.

Questions about the structure of organized crime usually involve a consideration of two distinct yet related issues. The first concerns the form and level of organization that characterize criminal associations. The second involves a consideration of the structure of the various markets within which these associations operate.

With respect to the first question, debate has centered around the level of rationality of organized crime groups. In simple terms, the concept of rationality refers to the degree of ‘‘organizational sophistication.’’ To the extent that organized crime groups are highly rational, they possess a well-defined division of labor, formal authority relations, and a structural permanence which implies that the organization exists independently of the people that comprise it at any particular point in time. Those descriptions of La Cosa Nostra, for instance, as a relatively formalized bureaucracy with positions for ‘‘bosses,’’ ‘‘underbosses,’’ and ‘‘soldiers’’ suggest a highly formalized model.

In contrast, it has been argued that organized crime groups more closely resemble informal rather than formal organizations. In this model, organized crime groups are said to consist principally of localized sets of loosely structured relationships that derive from kin and other forms of intimate association. The organizational context is seen to be based less on bureaucratic formality and more on shared cultural understandings and cooperation. Analyses by James O. Finckenauer and Elin K. Waring of the structure of the ‘‘Russian Mafia’’ in America, for instance, reveal that criminal associations typically resemble informal networks and as such are not centralized or dominated by any small group of individuals. Moreover, those individuals who do exert particular influence in these networks do so because of personal influence rather than because of positions that they occupy. There is also little evidence to support the view that these organizational structures outlive the involvement of their central participants.

Some critics of the more formalized model, such as historian Mark Haller, maintain that it is incorrect—at least in the case of Italian American crime organizations—to equate an association of organized criminals with a business enterprise. Rather, the members of such associations are relatively independent entrepreneurs who run their own illegal businesses from which they derive income. The organization does not provide ‘‘jobs’’ but serves the needs of its members in a variety of ways, not the least of which is the establishment of relationships and partnerships that facilitate the exploitation of illicit opportunities. Of course, not all groups operate this way and it is important to distinguish those that function like businessmen’s associations from those that are themselves business enterprises. The Cosa Nostra differs from a Colombian drug cartel in that the former is a type of social group that serves the interests of its members while the latter is a business group that is concerned with the sale and distribution of illicit goods. To group them together would be to confuse organizations like the Rotary Club with businesses like department stores.

It is also possible that differing views about the level of rationality of organized crime are not so much in conflict as they are differentially applicable. It may be that at certain (higher) levels of some crime organizations, authority is relatively formalized and, to some degree, structure exists quite independently of the activities in which the group is involved at any particular time. At the same time, relationships involving those at lower levels of the organization—or involving those in the organization and those beyond it—function in much more informal ways. Thus, rationality may not only vary between crime organizations but within them as well.

With respect to the structure of the markets in which organized crime is engaged, a key structural issue concerns what is sometimes assumed to be the inevitability of market monopolization. From one point of view, the trend toward monopoly is the central and defining feature of organized crime. Through the provision of

‘‘protection’’ to those involved in illicit businesses (such as bookmakers), through the establishment of trade associations involving legitimate sectors of the economy (such as the laundry business), or through other extortionate practices, organized crime groups are able to monopolize the delivery of particular goods and services.

In contrast, others have argued that the tendency of illicit markets associated with organized crime is to resist monopolization. Based on an analysis of gambling and loan-sharking operations in the New York City area, for instance, Peter Reuter (1983) concluded that the fear of police intervention and a lack of courtenforceable contracts tend to make markets fragmented and localized. Moreover, entry into such markets was relatively easy and prices for illegal services were set by the competitive power of the marketplace rather than by any sort of central pricing authority. While violence might be expected to facilitate monopolies, it has been found that it is used less frequently (and is less useful) than is sometimes believed. Not only does the use of violence invite police scrutiny, it also suggests a rather unstable mechanism for market control. By implication, any such monopoly is always vulnerable to groups as willing or more willing to use violence.

The range of activities in which organized crime groups are said to be involved is vast indeed. Traditionally, it has been argued that these activities are of two major types. The first involves the distribution and sale of illicit goods and services. Specifically such illicit enterprises might include prostitution, drugs, gambling, pornography, and loan-sharking. Extortion, the other major form of activity, is undertaken as an end in itself or as the means to other ends. These extortionate practices include various forms of business and labor racketeering and, it is argued, they have often provided the point of entry by which organized crime groups ‘‘infiltrate’’ legitimate businesses. While infiltration may in some cases be the appropriate word, in other cases, it obscures the role played by business interests that knowingly engage with organized crime groups because they believe it is in their best interests to do so. Such cases suggest collaboration rather than infiltration since the relationship is more symbiotic than parasitic. Thus, a legitimate business might use the relationship with an organized crime group as a source of investment capital while the organized crime group might view the relationship as an effective way to launder funds, diversify risk, or achieve some level of public respectability.

What illicit marketeering and extortion share in common, to some degree, is the potential for organization and routinization. In all such cases, not only collaborators but also victims understand the nature of the relationships in which they are involved. However, both groups may be unwilling to share the task of preventing or controlling the prohibited conduct. This may be because of their own profit-sharing, in the case of collaborators, or because they fear that such action could put them in danger, as in the case of victims.

Other forms of activities associated with organized crime groups—such as the use of violence or political corruption—must be understood in terms that stress the instrumental character of such practices. By definition, the businesses of organized crime operate beyond the reach of law and therefore conflicts that arise among participants cannot be resolved using the state-approved legal apparatus. Under such conditions, violence (and more importantly the threat of violence) assume some significance as techniques of conflict resolution. In a related way, organized crime groups need to be able to evade or to neutralize those state agencies charged with their control. Traditionally, corruption has proven to be an important mechanism by which this task is accomplished. As in the case of the infiltration of legitimate business, however, corruption is more often a form of symbiotic relationship than a form of victimization.

By the 1980s and 1990s, policymakers and academics alike had begun to argue that it would be misleading to think about organized crime activities in traditionally narrow terms. While various forms of extortion and marketeering continued to be important income sources, organized crime had become much more sophisticated. Of particular interest in this respect was the increasingly important role that criminal associations were thought to play in various financial markets. In the late 1990s, for instance, it was claimed that organized crime groups owned or controlled several New York brokerage firms.

During this period, attention also focused on the crime of money laundering. As cash businesses, drug trafficking, gambling, and other organized crimes generate huge amounts of money that is vulnerable to seizure by state authorities. The movement of these funds through international money markets not only launders the money but also in many cases extends criminal enterprises and facilitates corruption and bribery. It has been estimated that over $750 billion in illicit funds is laundered worldwide annually of which $300 billion is laundered through the United States.

Controlling Organized Crime

For many observers, organized crime is not only an object of academic study but also a practical problem about which something needs to be done. Policies aimed at the control of organized crime have tended to emphasize one of two types of strategies. The first targets the members of organized crime groups while the second focuses on the structural characteristics and market relationships that make organized crime possible. It is important to stress that these two broad strategies are not in conflict with each other. However, they do reflect quite different assumptions about how the human and economic resources available for the control of organized crime should be employed.

Strategies that focus on the members of organized crime groups tend to involve the use of the criminal justice system for the purpose of prosecuting offenders. Local state and federal agencies have used a wide arsenal of investigative and prosecutorial weapons to this end. These have included the extensive use of wiretaps, witness immunity and witness protection programs, and special grand juries. Perhaps the most important prosecutorial tool is the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which was passed in 1970. The act makes it a crime to acquire an interest in, to participate in the affairs of, or to invest the profits acquired from an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity. In the period after 1980, most significant organized crime prosecutions involved the use of the RICO statutes, and the decimation of the traditional Cosa Nostra organization has been attributed to RICO prosecutions.

Critics, however, maintain that all such policies have an inherent limitation in that they proceed from the assumption that the control— through prosecution—of members of organized crime groups is somehow synonymous with the control of organized crime. Such ‘‘headhunting’’ approaches, it is argued, confuse the arrest and prosecution of offenders with the control of the activities in which offenders engage. It has been suggested that even when they are successful, these strategies remove only some illicit entrepreneurs from the marketplace and thereby strengthen the rewards for those who remain. This outcome may be made more likely by the tendency of law enforcement to prosecute most successfully those operators who are smallest and weakest. Historically, it has been the case, critics argue, that the response to criminal prosecution is often adaptation on the part of organized crime groups. In the latter years of the twentieth century, for instance, the transparency of many national borders, and the growth of the Internet and of international money markets facilitated such adaptations by posing complex jurisdictional problems to enforcement agencies.

Rather than focus on the members of organized crime groups as the object of policy attention, many analysts argue, it is necessary to focus on the environments within which the businesses that comprise organized crime operate. Seen in this way, organized crime may require market rather than law enforcement interventions. One such intervention aims to decriminalize or legalize those goods and services that form the basis for many organized crime markets. Thus, state lotteries and legalized gambling in places like Las Vegas and Atlantic City provide alternatives to a service that would otherwise only be available in illicit markets. However, the approach poses risks since it is not necessarily the case that legalization results in the destruction of illegal markets. It can instead create a social climate that proves to be even more supportive of illegal conduct.

Another strategy involves efforts to ‘‘follow the money.’’ The recognition that organized crime activity facilitates the accumulation of large amounts of cash that must be laundered implies a need to make the money itself the object of policy attention. Money laundering by organized crime groups in the 1980s and 1990s (particularly the profits from the drug trade) has facilitated the relationships between organized crime groups and organizations in the more legitimate economy as well as between such groups and the governments of states for which such money is an important source of revenue. Thus, increasing attention has focused on the development of ‘‘money laundering’’ laws and policies that take the profits away from offenders by seizing or freezing assets derived from organized crimes.

Indeed, in the United States, money laundering prosecutions rose 400 percent between 1991 and 1993. Effective money laundering policies necessitate a degree of international cooperation that cannot always be achieved either because of differences in enforcement resources or in political will. Such strategies also depend heavily on longterm undercover operations, stings, and the use of informants, all of which pose difficult ethical problems.



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106 Organized Crime Essay Topic Ideas & Examples

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The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime defines organized crime groups broadly, encompassing most forms of profit-motivated crime.  Aside from its work on specific markets (drugs, trafficked persons, smuggled migrants, firearms, and wildlife), UNODC has conducted a number of regional studies on the full spectrum of organized criminal activities. Starting with Crime and Development in Africa (2005), many of these studies have taken the form of Transnational Organized Crime Threat Assessments (TOCTAs).  In addition to providing a description of the mechanics of illicit trade, the TOCTAs explore the reasons why a region is vulnerable to organized crime and the impact that this crime is having on social, economic, and political development.  The political impact of organized crime can include corruption, loss of democratic participation, instability, and conflict. Regional studies have included those in West, Central, and East Africa; East Asia and the Pacific, Central America and the Caribbean, and South-eastern Europe.  In 2021, UNODC is conducting its first national TOCTA, in Nigeria.

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Trends in Organized Crime

Trends in Organized Crime presents a composite of analyses and syntheses of research on organized crime, drawn from a variety of sources. It publishes peer-reviewed, original research articles and excerpts from significant governmental reports. The contents also include reviews of important new books and presents analysis and commentary on current issues in organized crime.

Trends in Organized Crime is an ideal resource for practitioners and policy makers, as well as the academic community. It is published in association with the International Association for the Study of Organized Crime (IASOC).

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Organized Crime and Preventive Justice

University of Warwick, Coventry, UK

By comparison with the prevention of terrorism, the prevention of acts of organized crime might be thought easier to conceptualize precisely and less controversial to legislate against and police. This impression is correct up to a point, because it is possible to arrive at some general characteristics of organized crime, and because legislation against it is not obviously bedeviled by the risk of violating civil or political rights, as in the case of terrorism. But there is a significant residue of legal, moral and political difficulty: legislation against organized crime is hard to make effective; the harm of organized crime is not uniform, and so some preventive legislation seems too sweeping and potentially unjust. More fundamentally, the scale and rewards of organized crime are often dependent on mass public participation in markets for proscribed goods, which may point to a hidden public consensus in favour of some of what is criminalized. For all of these reasons, I argue that existing preventive policing and legislation against organized crime may be harder to justify than their counterparts in counter-terrorism, at least in the UK.

In liberal jurisdictions criminal justice is primarily backward-looking. For example, a murder has been committed; the culprit is sought and (if all goes well) identified, arrested, fairly tried and convicted, and then proportionately punished. Preventive justice is the criminalization of steps that move an agent forward toward the commission of a serious crime. The steps may not be particularly harmful in themselves: buying hydrogen peroxide or fertilizer, for example. But individually harmless actions may enact a lethal plan, e.g. to build a bomb capable of killing hundreds. Preventive legislation allows for arrests to be made and charges preferred when there is evidence of (a) a plan to kill hundreds, (b) agreement among the planners on bombing as the means, and (c) procurement by the planners of materials for bomb-making. The case for criminalization in this sort of case is relatively strong, but critics of preventive justice point to other much more problematic offences, such as the glorification of terrorism, or acts of radicalization, or 3rd party offences of non-disclosure of information about a plot.

By comparison with the prevention of terrorism, the prevention of acts of organized crime might be thought easier to conceptualize precisely and less controversial to legislate against and police. This impression is correct up to a point, because it is possible to arrive at some general characteristics of organized crime, and because legislation against it is not currently subject to heated public controversy based on probable violations of civil or political rights, as in the case of terrorism. But there is a significant residue of legal, moral and political difficulty: legislation against organized crime is hard to make effective; the harm of organized crime is not uniform, and so some preventive legislation seems too sweeping and potentially unjust. More fundamentally, the scale and rewards of organized crime are often dependent on mass public participation in markets for proscribed goods, which may point to a hidden public consensus in favour of some of what is criminalized. Preventive policing and legislation in both areas, then, are less easily justified than first appears.

The rest of this paper is divided into five sections. I first identify some of the distinctive characteristics of organized crime, which include the maintenance of illicit mass markets, secrecy, ready resort to violence, and willingness to corrupt legitimate officials and politicians. In Section 2 I connect the status of organized crime as serious crime with its tendency not only to do harm to particular individuals, but also to undermine welfare-producing and politically legitimate institutions. In Section 3 I turn to preventive measures, focusing on the Serious Crime Preventive Order (SCPO) in recent legislation in force in England and Wales. I give reasons for doubting the justice of SCPOs, and compare them unfavourably with preventive measures geared to reducing the financial proceeds of crime. I then point out that these latter measures, too, while justifiable, have not proven to be particularly effective. Section 4 goes to the source of a deeper problem with preventive justice in the area of organized crime: namely that there is mass public participation in some of the illicit markets that it depends upon. Does mass public participation in these markets indicate a legitimating consensus in favour of their legalization? Perhaps. But this does not rule out possible mass collusion in the victimization and corruption associated with illicit markets. In order to provide support for decriminalization, market participation needs to take the form of open civil disobedience. Sections 5 and 6 draw conclusions about the distinctive problems of justifying preventive justice in the area of organized crime.

What is organized crime?

The task of defining organized crime has not proved straightforward. In the US Presidential Commission on Organized Crime in 1986, the difficulties were supposed to be contributed by the term ‘organized’ rather than the term ‘crime’ (Washington Commission 1986 : 25). But the fact that some organized crime is often claimed to be victimless, 1 or to involve illicit markets that should arguably not be illicit, makes even the ‘crime’ in ‘organized crime’ problematic. At the same time, the difficulties of capturing in law the kinds of organization that are characteristic of organized crime have not gone away. I begin by trying to identify some general, even if not defining, characteristics.

Organized crime typically consists of co-ordinated illegal activity for financial gain by a group of agents over a significant period of time. The group of agents exhibits a division of labour related to the component specialties involved in e.g. armed robberies or drug importation and dealing. Organized crime excludes more or less spontaneous, short-term looting during a riot involving people who do not know each other, and it may even exclude a one-off-coordinated criminal act (a bank robbery, say) carried out jointly by people who know each other but who will never act together again. The central cases of organized crime addressed in legislation and policy in Western jurisdictions involve more or less enduring crime gangs or families from which criminal plans and acts emanate frequently. Each gang member knows at least some of the other members well, and there are methods of recruitment tied to blood relations or a territory, such as a neighbourhood, or a foreign country of origin. 2 Of course, the territorial associations of crime gangs do not prevent international operations, notably through the internet, or transnational co-operation (Albanese and Reichel 2014 ).

Criminal gangs set out to make money by trading in illicit markets, or by robbery, fraud, extortion, kidnapping and murder. These latter, overtly victimizing, forms of organized crime are sometimes directed at ordinary citizens, and sometimes at rival criminals. Typically, the membership and activities of gangs are kept a secret from everyone else, particularly the authorities, and a great deal of ingenuity is directed by gangs at invisibly storing, transporting, and reinvesting the financial proceeds of their primary activities. Violence --sometimes including murder and torture-- is used within gangs to maintain discipline, and against outsiders to make money –through “protection” schemes--or to discourage competition. As for their dealings with the authorities, criminal gangs often try to bribe or blackmail police or judges or politicians for information or influence (Gounev and Ruggiero 2012 ) and they hire the services of non-criminals (e.g. legitimate lawyers, various kinds of craftsmen, doctors, scientists, accountants) as and when their enterprises or plans require.

A wide variety of crime is engaged in by criminal gangs. The 2010 UK Government Threat Assessment of Organised Crime (SOCA 2010 ) emphasizes drug importation and trading, immigration crime in various forms, and a wide range of fraud. The shared purpose of all of these forms of organized crime is money-making. Organized crime gangs seek to make themselves rich, or perhaps to make themselves rich and consolidate their power and influence. 3 What is more, getting rich and gaining power are not typically means to some further organizing end. They are themselves organizing ends. Furthermore, since in many developed jurisdictions convictions for organized crime are now associated with the confiscation of criminal assets, gangs and families must not only find ways of making money but of keeping it in the event that they are caught.

The fact that acquiring and keeping money and power are themselves organizing goals helps to distinguish organized crime from co-ordinated criminal activities conducted to finance terrorism. It is known, for example, that members of the Irish Republican Army carried out at least one huge bank robbery in December 2004 to support its paramilitary activities, and specifically to finance purchases of weapons. More than £20 million in banknotes was taken in an operation facilitated by the violent kidnapping of the family of a bank official (Guardian 2008 ). If the same amounts could readily have been raised from donations, then the rationale for bank robberies or other conventional crime by the IRA might have seemed slight or non-existent even from its own point of view. 4 Again, if some hypothetical operation carried out by the IRA had seemed potentially lucrative but involved targeting Northern Irish Catholics, i.e. people from its core political and religious constituency, that, too would presumably have been highly unattractive. For typical criminal gangs, on the other hand, there is no obvious upper limit on the violence used or the targets of it, if there is £20 million to be made. The financial rewards are always a strong consideration in their favour, even a conclusive consideration, if the proceeds and the chances of escaping conviction are big enough.

Criminal gangs aim to maximize profits, and they do so primarily through fraud in legitimate markets or selling goods in illicit markets. To give one example of fraud that is familiar in the USA (Finckenauer 2005 : 63-83 and esp. 77), the UK (Telegraph 2013 ) and elsewhere (Barkhuizen 2014 ), insurance companies have received large numbers of claims on staged automobile accidents, . Other examples of fraud involve the sale over the telephone of worthless land or stock market securities to naïve or vulnerable investors. Then there is cyber crime. Almost everyone who uses email has been on the receiving end of the Nigerian 419 scam. That is, they have received unsolicited emails proposing that, in return for a share, they receive into their bank account a transfer of millions from a foreign jurisdiction.

The involvement of criminal gangs in fraud in legitimate markets is to be distinguished from their activities in illicit markets. For our purposes, two kinds of illicit market can be distinguished, corresponding to what makes them illicit. Some markets are illicit in the sense that the legislation of a legitimate government prohibits them. Not every such prohibition of a market is uncontroversial, because the harm done by the goods traded is sometimes unclear, or clear but apparently freely self-inflicted. The harm, if any, done by soft drugs is sometimes thought to be of this type. The harm done by various kinds of alcoholic drink in the US during the Prohibition era might provide a further example. Although marijuana and whisky are open to abuse by buyers, legislation that prohibits trade in them can be thought to be unduly paternalistic, which counts against their criminalization in liberal jurisdictions where they are outlawed.

The other kind of illicit market is where goods are legally or illegally sold but there are strong moral reasons why they should never be. A market in forced labour is a relatively uncontroversial example. Another is a market in entertainment by fights to the death. An intermediate case is where an illicit market in goods and services that are harmless to consumers starts to be infiltrated by criminals with no scruples at all about what they sell. Markets in counterfeit goods are an illustration, because they permit and even invite the sale of dangerous or even lethal products. Cooking oil turns out to be contaminated; counterfeit vodka is discovered to be poison (Guardian 2014 ); fake branded industrial goods blow up or catch fire; drugs with impurities or in uncontrolled doses start to take lives (Lewis 2009 ). Since illicit markets have a built-in predisposition to flout even basic trading standards if there is enough money to be made as a result, there is always a danger that merely prohibited markets will tip over into markets that are morally impermissible because of the harmfulness of the goods or services sold.

Neither kind of ground for a market being illicit –legislative prohibition on the one hand or, on the other, the exploitation or harm it involves –necessarily registers with criminal gangs as a reason for not participating in that market. Admittedly, there may be financial reasons for established criminal groups to abide by and perhaps even enforce basic trading standards if a total disregard for these standards would undermine an illicit market. Drugs have to produce a high to attract customers, but they must be safe enough not to make customers regularly ill. In the same way, trafficked women may need to have access to adequate food and health care if they are to attract customers in prostitution. Adequate nourishment and health care are in that sense necessary background standards for the trade in sexual services. But, to labour the point, it is only the possible loss of custom and profit –not the badness of harm or exploitation-- that is likely to weigh with criminal gangs in the enforcement of minimal standards. As far as criminal gangs are concerned, there are no morally excluded markets or market practices, except perhaps trading in inside information about the activities or plans of criminal groups.

Again, criminal gangs do not operate in illicit markets only. They try to invest the proceeds of their illegal activities into legitimate markets and legitimate businesses. When this happens they employ lawyers to make sure they miss no tax or trading advantages permitted to legitimate businesses. At the same time, they are not above using illegal means, including violence, to gain income from legitimate businesses they do not own or invest in. In local areas they control, criminal gangs or families are often very willing simply to extort money from legitimate businesses. In return for not using violence against the business owners or not destroying their premises, criminal gangs regularly collect a portion of their receipts. Again, typical criminal gangs are very willing to make corrupt payments for exemptions from otherwise successfully enforced regulation or taxation. Through force and pay-offs they are able to increase rewards and reduce costs in legitimate-seeming businesses in which they are involved, that is, businesses that are conducted openly and with apparent regard for legality. 5

Why is organized crime serious crime?

Organized crime is often treated in legislation as serious crime. The grounds for treating it this way double as grounds for addressing serious crime with preventive justice measures. For it is natural to think that the more serious the crime, the more its prevention is justified. And if the prevention of a certain variety of serious crime is justified, then so might the criminalization of steps characterisitically leading to its commission. Or at least, criminalization is in order —is in order if—and this is a complex ‘if’—the steps are of a type that really do lead typically to a serious crime, if the penalties associated with taking those steps reliably deter or disrupt criminals, and if they are proportionately lower than the penalties for the fully realized serious crime. These ifs define the work of this section and the next: we shall first give reasons why organized crime should be regarded as serious crime, and then turn to the adequacy of selected preventive justice measures.

In earlier work (Sorell 2016 ), I have complained of the inadequacy of accounts of serious crime that take into account only directly victimizing offences (Von Hirsch and Jareborg 1991 ). These are offences in which one person suffers at the hands of another, and where seriousness is a matter of the difference the offence makes to the victim’s standard of life. Murder, which deprives someone of their life, is more serious than burglary, which might deprive someone only of property that they are well able to do without or replace without hardship.

Although accounts along these lines make sense of the relative seriousness of a certain range of offences –assault, homicide and burglary, for example --they do not capture what is wrong with bribery, systemic fraud, misbehaviour in public office and other associated, commonly criminalized activity. In earlier work I made it sufficient for reaching the threshold for serious crime that the organized commission of a type of crime would undermine a welfare-enhancing or harm-reducing institution, and the commission of that crime was organized and on an undermining scale. This is the sort of account needed to explain the seriousness or large-scale organized benefit or passport fraud, as well as standard forms of bribery and corruption. It is also the sort of account needed to make sense of the seriousness of common forms of organized crime.

The hybrid account I favour, which makes both undermining welfare-producing institutions and victimizing crime serious crime, is well adapted for explaining why common forms of organized crime are serious. Part of the justification for the fight against organized crime, and long sentences for common specimens of organized crime, must consist of (a) the reasons why victimizing crime is wrong, since the violence and extortion characteristic or organized crime are clearly victimizing. But that cannot be all. The justification must also include (b) reasons why illicit markets are illicit even when market participants are not straightforwardly victims; and (c) reasons why the corruption of officials is wrong. Let  us start with (c).

Criminal gangs operate secretly over years outside the control of a people and its government (Lynch and Phillips 1971 : 59); operate for financial gain through violence, fraud and participation in illicit markets; seek exclusive or monopolistic control of an illicit market; 6 and always stand ready to corrupt officials (Report to the Presidential Commission 1986 : 25) That is, they operate out of sight and in defiance of a jurisdiction and sometimes in competition with the authorities in a jurisdiction. This is not because they recognize no authority; on the contrary, they may be quite hierarchical themselves, or acknowledge a pecking order among fellow underworld organizations. The point is that they are a locus of power and loyalty apart from overworld institutions, with secret plans and organization, and with a sense of money-making opportunities unconstrained by either conventional morality or law. They set themselves up as regulatory powers within illicit markets, discouraging new market entrants, intimidating unruly market participants, and acting violently against any would-be rival authorities. They do not merely defy or ignore what the law prohibits, but recruit officials to see that the costs of defiance and disregard for the law in their case are minimized or eliminated.

Organized crime, then, has both victimizing and institution-undermining aspects. Victimizing crime is wrong because of the harm—disablement, loss of life, infliction of pain, fear or other kinds of distress of the person who is attacked or robbed or defrauded. Instead of harm, one can speak in terms of a loss or diminution of standard of life. By contrast, corruption is wrong because, among other things, it works directly against equal treatment before the law, and equal treatment is a requirement of justice. More generally, corruption undermines legal institutions, which have a certain priority in a system of welfare-raising and harm-reducing institutions in developed states. For the police or judges or regulatory bodies to be bought is for access to justice and other forms of welfare to be restricted, or for its distribution to be arbitrary or discriminatory if corrupting agents apply the appropriate influence.

What about (b)? Illicit markets are illicit typically because (i) the products they offer are often harmful; and (ii) sellers in the market know that they are harmful, and consumers don’t know, or are under some sort of compulsion to buy even if they do know about the harmful effects. In such cases illicit markets are illicit because they are victimizing. But this is not all. Illicit markets often operate with the collusion of officials, who are paid to turn a blind eye to the victimization. In these cases, the prosecution of illicit market activity is partly justified by what is wrong with victimization and party justified by what is wrong with corruption.

Preventive legislation in the UK

I have been trying to enlarge on the basis for criminalizing behaviour leading to organized crime: the basis includes the badness of direct, victimizing harm and the badness of undermining socially beneficial institutions by corruption. I now turn to legislation and policy, including preventive legislation and policy, devised to combat organized crime. To make the discussion manageable, I concentrate on the UK.

With the exception of legislation against the intimidation of jurors and witnesses, 7 and the corruption of police, prison and probation officers, 8 which acknowledges the steps sometimes taken by organized crime to pre-empt or undermine prosecutions, UK legislation does not dwell on the efforts by organized crime to undermine the justice system or to influence politicians. Instead, it seems to focus on three things: (i) the identification and prosecution of money laundering (Money Laundering Regulations 2007 ); (ii) confiscating the financial proceeds of crime (Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 ); and (iii) preventing the resumption by convicted gang members of roles in criminal gangs after they are released (Serious Crime Act 2007 ).

Although (i) and (ii) are sometimes criticized for irresponsibly and stingily outsourcing judicial or police oversight and investigatory functions to banks (Campbell 2013 : 71) I shall concentrate on (iii). This form of UK legislative response to organized crime differs from (i) and (ii) in significantly limiting the liberty of ex offenders. It is associated with the Serious Crime Prevention Order (SCPO) introduced by the Serious Crime Act ( 2007 ). Schedule I of this Act recognizes all of the following as serious crimes: drug trafficking; people trafficking; arms trafficking; prostitution and child sex; armed robbery; money laundering; fraud; tax evasion; corruption and bribery; counterfeiting; blackmail; intellectual property offences; environmental offences, including large-scale fishing by prohibited methods, and water pollution. Many of these are directly victimizing. Counterfeiting, intellectual property offences and some environmental crimes (though perhaps not all in Schedule 1) are different. They undermine welfare-producing institutions, or agreements.

The SCPO is one of a very wide range of preventive orders now available to the UK authorities to counteract everything from anti-social behaviour to terrorist activity, broadly construed. Preventive orders in general have been criticized in the academic legal literature for unduly limiting the liberty of people (Ashworth et al. 2013 ), and the question now briefly to be considered is whether this general form of criticism applies to the SCPO (Sorell 2016 ).

The SCPO enables courts to restrict the activities of those who have been convicted of Schedule 1 offences after they have served their sentences, so as to make it difficult for them to resume their place in a gang or in a network of criminal specialists that career criminals can call upon from time to time. Sections 5 and 6 (3) illustrates ways that SCPOs limit the freedom of ex-offenders:

Examples of prohibitions, restrictions or requirements that may be imposed on individuals (including partners in a partnership) by serious crime prevention orders include prohibitions or restrictions on, or requirements in relation to—

These are very broad areas of potential interference, and they seem to impose a penal burden on an offender even after a conviction is spent. Serious crime prevention orders can last for 5 years. This is a long time. Instead of returning to society with a clean slate, those who are released from prison after having been convicted of a serious crime are liable to suffer a considerable loss of autonomy over a significant period, with conditions of life significantly determined by judicial decision. Since the threshold for serious crime can be met by someone guilty of no more than online piracy of videos or music, the risk of injustice seems substantial.

To show the SCPO in a more favourable light, it may be necessary to distinguish between one-off and repeat offenders, and, within the category of repeat-offenders, between those who have operated solo, and those who belong to or who regularly co-operate with crime gangs. For obvious reasons, one-off offenders are less credible targets for SCPOs than repeat offenders. As for repeat offenders, the loss of autonomy associated with an SCPO may make sense where there is good evidence that an ex-convict has been involved in organized crime and is likely voluntarily to return to it. Often convicts who have worked with a criminal gang once may face expectations backed by coercion of future co-operation. Convicts leaving prison might face hard-to-refuse demands of collaboration from criminal gangs and might actually be helped not to collaborate by serious crime prevention orders.

Let us agree with the critics of preventive orders that the SCPO is a questionable measure when directed at ex-offenders who are not members of criminal gangs: are we being too quick to concede that it is appropriate for people who have taken part in organized crime? After all, Schedule 1 recognizes a very wide range of organized crime. Do all forms deserve the same treatment? Surely fishing by prohibited methods and intellectual property offences, when carried out by criminal gangs, are not as serious --in the sense of being directly victimizing and inflicting serious harm--as people-trafficking and organized sexual assault of children? Surely the less serious Schedule 1 offences may produce less harm and so justify less well the far-reaching restrictions on liberty which SCPOs may involve?

Here some of the empirical research commissioned by the Home Office in the UK may be relevant. A Home Office Research Report (Francis et al. 2013 ) on career criminals and organized crime notes that offenders involved in organized crime, while predominantly involved in drug dealing and importation, are not specialists, and that the time they spend in prison deepens and broadens their criminal connections and their knowledge of methods of committing other offences. Nearly a third of all those involved in organized crime covered by the study belonged to the category “versatile and very prolific” --far more than in the other categories included: “mainly violence”, “mixed prolific”, “mainly acquisitive” and “mainly drugs”. Indeed, the “versatile and very prolific” category of organized criminal was twice as large as the next largest “mainly violence” category. Belonging to the “versatile and very prolific” category made it almost certain that in the 5 years leading to arrest for an organized crime offence --an offence with a given term of imprisonment for which someone was co-convicted---the offender had committed some other offence or other, including a .7 probability of having committed violence against a person or a theft and handling stolen goods offence, and a .95 probability of having breached a court order or bail (Francis et al. 2013 : 50). 9 The research also revealed a pattern of increasing seriousness for crimes committed over a career starting in the early teens, with the most serious crimes being committed at around the age of 40. 10

This research on the career trajectory of people involved in organized crime may help to justify measures that disrupt patterns of association between early career criminals and senior career criminals both during and after imprisonment. This can include disruptions of patterns of association by means of SCPOs. There is also empirical evidence for distinguishing between offences likely to be committed by organized crime, and offences that can be. Offences likely to be committed by organized crime include forgery and counterfeiting, firearms and drugs offences (Ackerley et al. 2002 : Appendix A). All of these are Schedule 1 offences. So if there is evidence that an early career organized criminal is going to associate after imprisonment with known counterfeiters and arms traffickers, that might also be a reason, though admittedly not a decisive reason, for issuing an SCPO banning those associations so as to prevent a career in organized crime.

Although the appropriateness of SCPOs for veterans of very harmful organized crime is at least arguable, we do not have before us a conclusive case in its favour. On the contrary, we have some reasons for thinking that the target group for the imposition of SCPOs is too undifferentiated in the Serious Crime Act ( 2007 ). This raises the question of whether other preventive measures against organized crime, measures that at first seem to limit liberty less than SCPOs, might be preferable. For example, might anti-money laundering measures, and powers of confiscating the proceeds of crime be morally superior to the imposition of SCPOs?

Here, too, the answer may be less clear-cut than at first appears. According to an estimate in a 2005 report (Corporation of London 2005 ), annual proceeds of crime in the UK amount to between £19 and £48bn and only £80 m is confiscated. In the US the corresponding best guess is $110bn, of which £340 m is confiscated (Corporation of London 2005 : 16). If these figures are even roughly correct, the effectiveness of measures that are supposed to counteract crime by making it harder for criminals to enjoy the proceeds is low. Since reducing bad effects is part of the moral case for anti-money-laundering measures, the ineffectiveness of those measures matters morally and counts against those measures. The same conclusion seems to be supported by the relatively low number of prosecutions brought by the UK authorities relative to the volume of suspicious activity reports from financial institutions, the relatively small number of banks fined for money-laundering, and the relatively small fines levied up to 2008 when any were levied at all (Harvey 2008 ). 11

Again, and perhaps surprisingly, the criminalization of money laundering has come in for criticism on moral grounds. In the US, money laundering can attract a 10-year prison sentence: Douglas Husak objects to this sort of penalty (Husak 2008 : 41). According to him, depositing the proceeds of crime X does not add to the wrong of X itself, and only acts that reach the threshold for moral wrongness should be dealt with by hard treatment like imprisonment. Husak would not reject non-penal treatment for money-launderers, say taxing them or making it administratively difficult for them to deposit the proceeds of crime. 12 His point is that imprisonment is out of order because punishment is out of order for something --an act of depositing money-- that is neither wrong in itself, nor necessarily bad in its effects. His target is US statutes that would punish a criminal for e.g. investing the proceeds of crime into a college fund for his nephew. More generally, his target is the punishment by imprisonment of a very large range of offences that are merely legally prohibited rather than wrong in themselves. He thinks that unbridled criminalization is behind the disproportionately large size of US prison populations, and also the huge and, in his opinion, misdirected investment in the enforcement of US drug legislation (Husak and de Marneffe 2005 ).

I disagree with Husak’s claim that money-laundering should not be criminalized. Organized crime is a money-making enterprise. To turn its proceeds into money that can safely be kept, criminals need methods of investing it undetected in legitimate businesses. Money-laundering also facilitates the personal enjoyment of the proceeds of organized crime by criminals, and also helps to finance political influence and legislation favourable to industries, such as casinos, hotels and entertainment in which the proceeds of crime have sometimes been invested. Knowingly making it easier through money-laundering for a criminal gang with a long track record of brutality to extend that record, or to diversify their activities to include further offences that are mala in se, does seem, in its turn, wrong in itself, and therefore punishable in principle. Money laundering typically finances not only more serious harm –an increase in the number of crimes of a given degree of harmfulness-- but an apparatus designed to make harm-production efficient in the future. An apparatus that, so to speak, industrializes crime –that makes the organization of crime more systematic and more efficient -- is worse than arrangements that simply facilitate more crime. The former involves specialization and co-ordination of many people’s efforts. This is different from, and morally worse than, using the proceeds of one’s own crimes to move from a part-time to a full time solo career in burglary.

Admittedly, if a criminal gang had a plan, as in one of the Godfather film trilogy, of getting out of organized crime altogether by means of money-laundering in the short-term, the moral case for punishing its money-laundering would have to proceed along different lines from the argument for criminalizing measures that industrialize crime. As things typically are, however, the laundered proceeds of crime stand ready to be used by people whose activities straddle the worlds of crime and legitimate business, and who want that straddling to continue. Despite the moral and political exceptionalism of their participation in illicit markets, criminal gangs assert their rights aggressively when they have stakes in legitimate businesses and legitimate markets. Laundered assets -- assets that are easier to keep because they look legitimate and are protected by law --are more attractive for criminal and legitimate business activities alike than easy-to-pilfer and incriminating piles of cash in a back room. However, and again as things typically are, there is nothing to make criminals prefer legitimate to criminal activities if the returns of the latter are much greater and the costs or risks are comparable. There is nothing, therefore, to stop laundered assets from financing far more crime than legitimate business when the assets can in principle be ploughed into either. Since criminals typically make deposits, or have deposits made, with a view to financing more crime and an improved crime apparatus, the criminalization of money laundering seems to be perfectly in order. 13

It may be true that otherwise innocent third parties hired to handle money for laundering are unjustly prosecuted for money-laundering and are only the unwitting associates of criminals. It may be true that it is hard for these third parties to know for certain whether money that they are handling is criminal or not. It may further be true that trying to find out the source of deposits and trying to identify suspicious transactions unfairly imposes financial costs on financial institutions and unfairly transfers legal liabilities to them. It may, finally, be true that when pressed into quasi-forensic roles, employees of financial institutions have discretion to inconvenience and even victimize non-criminal clients that law enforcement officials would not have. In all of these ways, the outsourcing of anti-laundering measures by governments may involve injustice to third parties. These considerations, however, do not count against the criminalization of money-laundering: they are reasons for not delegating responsibility for detecting money-laundering to financial institutions. Perhaps public bodies need to carry out these checks, albeit with money raised from the financial sector.

Public participation in illicit markets

In the last section I considered some drawbacks of preventive justice measures for organized crime. These seemed either disproportionate, as in the case of SCPOs, or hard to make effective. But there are deeper reasons for thinking twice about organized crime, and these are to do with the way that mass public participation in illicit markets arguably pushes them in the direction of legitimacy.

The main illicit market in the UK is in drugs, 14 and the drug trade owes its profitability to widespread participation in it by the public. I concede that some participation is grounded in addiction, so that it is not all out “willing” participation. What about the non-addicted? Admittedly, these market participants are not coerced. Still, members of the public who apparently willingly buy services from organized crime have to enter an economic zone that exists in defiance of a jurisdiction that they are otherwise mostly obedient to. This means that even the “willing” participation of people as consumers in illicit markets is conflicted. It requires people to compartmentalize their underworld and overworld activities by keeping e.g. their drug purchases secret from the authorities and other people. Again, the underworld activity of customers in illicit markets seems to defy legislative and other institutions that in their overworld civic roles of voter and juror those people genuinely support. So participation in an illegal market fragments the civic personas of market participants. This makes it quite different from consumer activity in legal markets.

Nevertheless, the fact that people at the receiving end of illicit markets run by crime gangs do not seem to be victimized—coerced or harmed against their will—and that there is durable demand for illicit goods and services, makes some non-fraudulent organized crime resemble mainstream business activity. The resemblance sometimes prompts public discussion of the possible legalization of the markets in question. Gambling is one of the formerly illegal activities that has passed into the mainstream of many jurisdictions. The sale of sex and drugs, though legal in some places, is more of a rarity.

Does the fact that there is apparently great public demand for illegal drugs throw doubt on the legitimacy and authority of laws that make the possession, purchase, importation and distribution of drugs illegal? The fact there is a strong analogy between some drugs and some legally sold kinds of alcohol certainly adds to scepticism about the blanket criminalization of drugs. And since only the prevention of serious crime justifies liberty-limiting preventive measures, is it reasonable for preventive orders to be issued to veteran drug dealers or drug runners involved only with recreational drugs?

Perhaps the less victimizing the crime and the less harm is done, as in dealing soft drugs as opposed to heroin, the less criminalization in the first place is justified. In the case of small-scale consumers of illegal soft drugs who otherwise do not commit offences, criminalization of possession may be particularly hard to justify. Although the criminalization of possession may be regarded as a preventive measure in that it is meant to discourage transactions in the drug market in general, including the sector involved with the sale of hard drugs, the harm caused by mere possession of any drug, even hard drugs, is surely negligible or non-existent, and the effect on organized crime of confiscating small quantities of soft drugs or of discouraging the smallest players in the market is surely slight. Discouraging drug production, or confiscating big shipments of very harmful because addictive drugs at the point of importation, is surely much more justifiable.

Although these considerations have some force, they do not show that mass participation in drug markets should simply be tolerated by the authorities, or that ordinary consumers of small quantities of non-addictive drugs do nothing wrong by buying regularly from drug dealers. Just because they are otherwise law-abiding, the small-scale consumers we are considering are guilty of exceptionalism. That is, they have pretensions to be their own judges of which laws they will abide by and which they will break. It is true that they are not exceptionalists of the same order as those who direct organized crime, since the latter group are willing to commit violent offences and fraud on a large scale if the profits are high enough and if there is a good chance that they will not be caught. Organized criminals are willing, in other words, to break a whole range of laws, and indeed to direct and even coerce others to do so. Otherwise law-abiding small-scale consumers of drugs are probably much better morally as individuals, and would probably be horrified by the willingness of organized crime to make money from causing harm.

This does not mean that consumers of soft drugs deserve no moral criticism. After all, their purchases foreseeably add to the profit that keeps organized crime in any market, including markets that should always be illicit. Again, the market for soft drugs need not be, and is often intended by criminals not to be, cut off from the market for more profitable and addictive drugs. Although some of the illicit drugs sold in the general drug market are probably harmless, many others are not. Being a consumer in a relatively harmless section of an illicit market can expose oneself and others to the promotion of much more harmful drugs. Finally, there are no reliable mechanisms of quality control in an illicit market to ensure that the even the supply of normally harmless drugs does not get contaminated. This fact is a reason why participation in an illicit market for even soft drugs can never be reliably informed, and why, consequently, market participants run a greater risk of harm than consumers in other markets. Or to put it another way, consumers of even the normally harmless drugs in an illicit market can very easily be victimized, and it is a kind of good luck if they are not victimized.

There are also considerations about violence. Illicit markets in drugs are regulated by a lot of threatened and actual victimizing violence, some of it life-threatening, mainly inflicted by members of criminal gangs on one another and on customers and dealers who default on payments (Home Office 2007 ). This means that even if illegal drug purchases are typically uncoerced and do not lead to debilitating addiction, they take place within a market that relies heavily and conspicuously on victimizing violence. Knowledge of that violence is not esoteric: punishments for theft or default are often well advertised to all market participants. Acting as a dealer in the drug market signals a tolerance of that violence. Acting as a regular purchaser can also signal tolerance. What is more, acting as a purchaser can help to fund the purchase of de facto impunity from police investigation and prosecution through bribery. Taking part in the drug market may also contribute indirectly to the recruitment of young people to crime instead of education, and to imbalances in the allocation of policing and other resources in response. 15 The idea that purchases of soft drugs are normally innocent, then, is doubtful.

Things would stand differently morally if the typical purchase of soft drugs were open and intended as part of a public campaign directed at legalizing drugs. This would elevate drug purchases from acts of self-indulgent exceptionalism to acts of drug consumption seeking legitimization through the political process. But as things actually are, drug purchases by the otherwise law-abiding are carried out quietly and evasively, out of the sight of the same police department that drug purchasers would call in if their houses were burgled or their cars stolen. Perhaps the elimination of this inconsistency or hypocrisy would add to the case for drug legalization. But its existence in the interim certainly counts against citizen participation in drug markets. It does not matter whether the citizen participation is on a large scale or not: the only way to legitimize it is through legislative change, or, short of that, a public campaign of law reform including civil disobedience combined with willingness to submit to arrest for it.

Prevention of organized crime vs counter-terrorism

It is time to return to the contrast between the fight against organized crime and counter-terrorism. Each is supported by legislation and policy that are eminently criticisable, but criticisable in very different ways. In the case of organized crime, as we have seen, the deepest problems arise from the fact that market activity is at its heart, and that there is large-scale public participation in some of it, sometimes with little resulting harm. Among illicit markets the most problematic are those in which the commodities whose use is criminalized are hardest to distinguish from the commodities traded in legal markets. This is arguably how things stand with the illicit market in soft drugs for recreational purposes, comparable as it is to the entirely legal market in cigarettes and alcohol. It has already been strongly suggested that the right response to the criminalization of participation in questionably illicit markets is political: a consensus can legally be built in favour of law reform by market participants, and in that way some illicit markets can properly be brought out from prohibition.

When it comes to counter-terrorist legislation the deepest problems are quite different. They are not to do with money-making, markets or by the role of big sections of the general public in buying illicit goods. They arise instead from the perceived need to curtail the rights of ideological minorities as a means of preventing violence or attacks by a tiny number within the ideological minority. In the UK, terrorism legislation directly restricts the freedom of association and the freedom of expression, respectively, in as much as membership in certain violence-supporting organizations is outlawed (Terrorism Act 2000 ), and in as much as the expression of support for acts of terrorism, even in the past, is also an offence. The reason the restriction of the rights of ideological minorities is a deep problem, as opposed to a problem simply, is that it seems to relax protections that are constitutive of liberal politics. On the other hand, when the freedom of association and freedom of expression are used to gather and make vocal support for violent political change, those freedoms are arguably being perverted themselves. We might say that both the non-violent support for terrorism and the counterterrorism measures that it inspires denature the liberal democratic context that make them possible. There is no counterpart of this in the fight against organized crime.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, preventive justice is radically different in the two cases, and, when questionable, questionable for different reasons. Preventive measures against organized crime in the UK are aimed at reducing its financial rewards and discouraging or disrupting career criminality. Consumer participation in criminally organized illicit markets, especially for soft drugs, is treated with a light touch. Depending on the reasons for it, the light touch might be justified. It might be justified if soft drugs used for recreational purposes are relatively harmless. It might be justified if, in addition to being harmless, soft drugs are the subject of broadly based campaigns for legalization and policing of small scale consumption becomes unaggressive to reflect this.

Preventive measures in counter-terrorism have a very different character. Apart from criminalizing the “glorification” of terrorism in broadcasts and print (Terrorism Act 2006 : s1), and proscribing Islamist organizations, successive UK governments have introduced many third party offences, including various failures to tell the authorities about the preparation of terrorism. In addition to non-disclosure offences, there has been a devolution of responsibility to non-governmental institutions to monitor local processes of radicalization. For example, universities and prisons have duties under the Prevent strand of UK counter-terrorism policy. These duties are spelt out in the Counter Terrorism and Security Act ( 2015 : s29). 16

It might be thought that these third-party obligations are the counterparts of anti-money laundering monitoring in financial institutions. But this is a mistake, because some of the new obligations have the effect of clashing with some of the functions of the institutions on which they are imposed. Universities, for example, are among the custodians and channels for the freedom of expression and, up to a point, the freedom of association. Moreover, they are home to experiments in free expression. Students at universities have often tried out different kinds of protest tactics, including violent ones. Student newspapers and debating societies have often expanded the limits of free expression and have introduced more variety into the range of discussable political views. The university environment, in short, is a particularly protected space for the exercise of freedoms of expression and thought. Since the line between avant-garde debate and radicalization is sometimes too fine to be discerned, debate is likely increasingly to be suppressed in the name of preventing radicalization. In this way, the new duty under Prevent policy may only help to denature the institutions in the university sector that assume it.

Even non-violent extremism is targeted by the Prevent Duty Guidance for England and Wales March 2015 (HM Government 2015 : para 8). Non-violent extremism includes agitation against “British values,” such as tolerance and democracy. In short, the reinterpretation of terrorism to include much more than violence against civilians to force a change of policy by government introduces a much wider range of possible precursor offences and preventive policing operations. No-one can reasonably object to precursor offences consisting of ordering the ingredients of a bomb or of recruiting personnel for a bomb attack. But recently introduced offences have quite a different character. They call upon institutions to root out practices that are hard to distinguish from things those institutions have tolerated for a long time. What is more, the new duties are being imposed without its being clear that they will be effective in reducing the volume of extremism, violent or non-violent. This fact, together with the strong possibility that non-violent extremism is offensive rather than harmful, suggests that criminalization in counter-terrorism has already gone too far. 17 The case for a comparable conclusion with regard to organized crime is much weaker.

Preventive justice is not only controversial in counter-terrorism: it is disputable even in the area of organized crime. One reason is that preventive measures in the form of confiscation of assets have not been very effective. But there are also principled objections, based on the connection of organized crime to questionably illicit markets. Some illicit markets trade in products that are arguably no more harmful than certain lawfully traded goods. The comparability of some licit and illicit markets in this respect; and the fact that certain illicit markets are widely patronized despite their being unlawful, provide reasons for legalization when combined with anti-paternalistic arguments. These considerations do not show, however, that all kinds of public participation in questionably illicit markets is legitimate. Participation becomes legitimate when linked publicly to a campaign of law reform. Leaving aside controversially outlawed markets, there is plenty to justify the prevention of organized crime. There is the severe harm it produces, the commodification of this harm, the illegitimate power structures it sustains, and the threat it poses through bribery and coercion to legitimate power structures and the non-criminals they protect. There is also the evidence, at least in the UK, that serious crime occupies people as a career, and that over time criminals diversify their criminal activities. Although Serious Crime Prevention Orders may address these facts in a clumsy way, this does not mean that they are entirely unjustified. In the case of terrorism, on the other hand, preventive justice is controversial because of its multiplication of preparatory offences, its multiplication of 3rd party legal liabilities, and its prohibition of relatively harmless practices that are often innocent exercises of human rights.


Research for this article was supported by funding from the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Grant No ES/K000098/1).

1 See Campbell ( 2013 : 64) ‘Much organised crime does not involve a victim as such, and, as a result, the gathering of evidence may prove problematic...’

2 The United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime ( 2001 ) Article 2 (a) defines an organized criminal group as a group of three or more persons that was not randomly formed; existing for a period of time; acting in concert with the aim of committing at least one crime punishable by at least 4 years’ incarceration; in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit. This definition is unduly permissive, since it allows an ad hoc group formed to carry out a one-off criminal act as a kind of organized crime.

3 Power is emphasised by the 1986 Presidential Commission Report (Washington Commission 1986 : 29).

4 This is not to say that terrorists and organized crime gangs cannot make common cause. Kirstin M. Finklea takes this possibility seriously (Finklea 2010 : 27-28).

5 Legitimate businesses, admittedly, also resort to pay-offs at times. They are less likely to make direct threats of violence to get their way, however.

6 “From all accounts, organized crime does not merely extend itself broadly, but brooks no competition. It seeks not merely influence, but exclusive influence. In the overworld its counterpart would be not just organized business, but monopoly. And we can apply to it some of the adjectives that are often associated with monopoly-ruthless, unscrupulous, greedy, exploitative, unprincipled.” (Schiller 1971 : 73).

7 See (Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 ), esp. s. 51.

8 The UK Anti-Corruption Plan (HM Government 2014 ) provides for a new offence of police corruption (p. 11), and discusses new powers to target corruption in prisons and post-conviction processes. There is also acknowledgment of corruption in government procurement processes. The UK Independent Police Complaints Commission, in its second report on police corruption, which covers the period 2008-2011, (IPCC 2012 ) reports relatively few upheld complaints about corruption in the form of perverting the course of justice, but reports surveys suggesting that corruption, is perceived by the public to be widespread.

9 Related Home Office research appears to indicate that convictions for some violent offences is weakly predictive of murder and serious sexual assault. See (Ackerley et al. 2002 ).

10 Since seniority in a criminal gang comes with the authority to delegate crime to others and so escape arrest and imprisonment oneself, involvement by senior gang members in serious crime is largely missed by the report we are considering. But the existence of crime leaders with authority to delegate crime does help to explain why, at 40, convictions of career criminals decline: some of those criminals have become important enough to direct rather than participate in operations, and to get more junior people involved in the sort of crime that made them eligible for leadership.

11 Fines have increased and have been imposed more frequently in the last 10 years.

12 It is unclear whether Husak would regard a court-ordered confiscation of the proceeds of crime a kind of penal treatment.

13 For different arguments to the same conclusion, see Young ( 2009 ). Young partly relies on (Alldridge 2001 ).

14 Comprehensively described in (Home Office 2007 ).

15 The argument for treating participation in a violent, illegal market as serious crime may also be an argument for policy that will remove the violence, e.g. by creating a legal and regulated drug market. Discussion of this issue is outside the scope of the present paper.

“Universities will be expected to carry out a risk assessment for their institution which assesses where and how their students might be at risk of being drawn into terrorism.

17 The Behavioural Sciences Unit of MI5 (the UK security service addressing domestic threats) distinguishes between “talkers” (whose extremism is registered in speech and writing only) and “walkers”, who are willing to kill or injure others. This is an important distinction in the justification of preparatory offences: criminalization needs to fasten on the “walkers”.

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research paper on organized crime

Essays on Organized Crime

How organized crimes impact the society economically and socially, a study of the impact of america's organized crimes in the 1920s, history of organized crime in the united states, white collar crime and its effect on society, the negative counterculture of the italian camorra, serial killers: born evil or the result of upbringing, recognizing, avoiding, and reporting frauds in business world, how prohibition led to a rise in organised crime and corruption, the link between terrorism and drug trafficking, types of crimes, analysis of the rape case: brzonkala v. virginia polytechnic inst. and state university, the criminal justice system in the uk, the ways to reduce crime in contemporary canadian society, what do we know about money laundering, shared views of metro cebu crime busters' technology, theories of kidnapping, the particular factors that motivate preparers of financial statements to engage in accounting fraud, and safeguards available in preventing accounting fraud, human trafficking: a worldwide problem.

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Misdemeanor and Organized Crime in Us

The concept of accounting fraud and the case study of worldcom, arrest of persons in india, transnational organized crime in southeast asia region: impact towards malaysian security, socio-political and economic welfare, how crime and laws go hand in hand, factors that provoke people to commit crimes, the issue of drug trafficking on a global scale, the role of bans and economic crisis in the 1920s in the growth of organic crimes, the florentino crime family, bonnie and clyde: the history of an infamous crime spree, the top 20 uk burglary hotspots, the aftermath of human trafficking, feeling stressed about your essay.

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research paper on organized crime


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